Wondering how to entertain your toddler on a flight? These tried and tested toddler airplane activities make family travel much less stressful. And best of all, lots of them are super cheap and easy to shove in your hand luggage.
And if you really want to have all bases covered, I’ve included travel toys for toddlers on airplanes too.
Flying with a toddler doesn’t need to be hard work. You just need to do a little bit of preparation (that said, if you don’t have much time try one of these ready-made travel activity packs for kids).
Nova (almost 4) and Kit (2) have been on countless flights, both short and long-haul. I’ve also travelled with my toddler nephews, so it’s fair to say these toddler plane activities come recommended! Oh and if you’re looking for tips on flying with a baby (rather than a toddler) read this.
The Best Toddler Plane Activities
Pack washi road tape (or just regular Frog/masking tape) and a few little cars. Put the tray table down and let them create a road scene. Nova likes to put a bit of tape on the arm rests and back of the seats too, so they can do loop the loops and other tricks!
Tip: Pack the different toddler airplane activities in separate bags. I suggest some in clear bags so they’re easy to find and some in brown paper/newspaper to make it seem like a present (and of course, to use more time up!).
Make a Bracelet or Snake (and Eat it!)
Knot a piece of string at one end and then give your toddler a pot of hoop snacks to thread onto it to create a bracelet/snake/necklace – label it whatever would work best for your toddler.
If you don’t want to use string you can use cooked spaghetti (though this is quite fiddly) or one of those strawberry shoelace type sweets (watch out for the sugar rush).
Of course, you could use non-edible beads if you’d rather, but I find toddlers are more interested in keeping hold of the ‘beads’ if they’re edible!
This has to be the easiest way to entertain a toddler on a flight. This distracts my 3 year old for at least 30 minutes and he usually comes back to it later in the flight.
Recommended Reading: The Best Ready-Made Toddler Activity Packs
Seek and Find
These books are always a winning toddler plane activity with my family buying me at least 30 minutes. Essentially, pages of tiny characters and scenes, forcing little ones to focus and look closely at the page to find something.
Choose from classic Where’s Wally? books or go for a more personalised seek and find book where they have to find themselves.
Tip: Keep these books away at home and only bring them out for flights, otherwise you may find your toddler memerises where all the characters are and this activity time is greatly reduced!
Recommended Reading: The Best Travel-Inspired Toddler Books
Play Toddler Games
Looking for travel toys for toddlers on airplanes? There are so many great magnetic games out there that encourage independent, creative play. These face ones by Janod are ideal for a toddler on a plane. Pick a card and then use the magnetic pieces to replicate the face.
For a free alternative, use a notebook to play noughts and crosses. And to buy a bit more time, try a travel-version of Guess Who or Snakes and Ladders. Snap is also a great game that little ones love (especially when it’s Peppa Pig Snap!) and best of all, uses very little luggage space. I find they love any games that involve you giving them attention.
For screen-lovers, download electronic games on your phone or iPad. The CBeebies apps have some great toddler-friendly activities to keep children entertained.
Tip: Pack (and charge!) a portable battery and cable for your phone/iPad.
Recommended Reading: Free Toddler Airplane Lap Seat Vs Paid Toddler Airplane Seat
Most family travellers rave about stickers, but I find Nova isn’t so interested. Kit, on the other hand, loves a sticking session.
Opt for the reuseable sticker sets where the activity involves sticking a particular sticker in a specific location. I find ones that engage toddler minds uses more time than when they just freely stick them everywhere (usually over dad!).
Tip: What does your toddler like doing at home? Cater the toddler plane activities to their personal taste. There’s no point packing stickers and arty things if your little one just isn’t into crafts. It sounds obvious, but it can be so easy to panic pack and then you end up wasting luggage space and money.
Do you have a fidgety toddler? Keep their little hands busy with playdough. Sure, it can be a bit messy, but it’s entertaining and easy to shove in your bag. Either make your own stash (recipe below) or buy a mini tub of playdough.
Non Toxic Play Dough Recipe
Ingredients: 8 tablespoons of plain flour, 2 tablespoons of table salt, 60ml of warm water and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. For an extra sensory experience, add a scent such as ground cinnamon and/or seeds.
Method: Mix the flour and salt together. In a separate bowl, mix the water and oil. Then combine the two mixtures with a wooden spoon. Knead and work out the dough on a lightly flour dusted surface. Store in a sealed bag in the fridge up until you leave.
Draw and Colour
Give them a colouring book and some washable pens.
Worried about the mess? Try one of the Crayola Colour Wonder pens and book sets. The pens only work in the Crayola book – everywhere else they just show as invisible ink.
Want something that can be used on multiple trips? Try a magnetic drawing pad.
If you want to stimulate their mind whilst you count down the minutes until you land, pick up a few of the handwriting and/or number books. They trace over the dots to practice their letter/number writing skills. Get the wipeable ones so you get a bit of longevity out of them and I’d recommend making sure they’re age-appropriate so your toddler doesn’t get too frustrated.
On a budget? Use a simple notebook and pen. I find toddlers love copying adults, so this combo usually works quite well.
Recommended Reading: 16 Car Activities for Toddlers (That Really Do Work!)
This is another toddler plane activity that’s ideal for those who can be a little fidgety. Grab a little bag of Lego or Duplo or even wooden blocks, so they can use their imagination to build something. The aeroplane themed Duplo set is often a great winner.
I do find the Lego pieces can be a bit too little, which is annoying when they drop on the floor, so I’d recommend Duplo or the blocks, but you know your toddler best.
Tip: Pack it in a clear ziplock bag or clear tupperware box so you can easily find it and to keep all the bits together.
I find The Works and Flying Tiger have some super cheap, craft sets that are lightweight and easy enough for toddlers to use. This is especially true around occasions like Easter, Christmas etc.
From foam shapes that they stick in an outline to scratch art where they watch characters come to life, they all buy you that precious time!
Recommended Reading: Ultimate Packing List for Young Families
I’m sure you don’t need me to suggest this one. All toddlers love to snack, don’t they?!
Bring more than you think you’ll need. And to make it into an activity bring them out one at a time and opt for small, fiddly things if you can. Anything that requires them to concentrate to pick it up, so dry cereal like rice crispies, dried fruit – whatever they like.
Recommended Reading: Cheap Gifts for Mini-Explorers
Pack a few soft cover books, so they’re not too heavy. I suggest a favourite one and then a couple of new ones, or at least ones they haven’t seen for a while. Allow them to ask questions or get them to find a particular character or colour – anything that eeks this toddler plane activity out!
If you want a little respite and your toddler is happy to wear headphones, download a few audiobooks in advance.
Amazon offer a 30-day free trial and thereafter, it’s £7.99 per month.
From The Gruffalo to Disney, to David Walliams’ selection of Spectacular Stories for the Very Young and classics like The Tiger Who Came to Tea, the hardest part will be deciding which toddler audio books to download.
Watch a Movie or Show
What’s your go-to thing to do on a flight? Yep, turns out a lot of toddlers like this too. This is one of my favourite airplane activities for 3 year old because it’s so easy…provided I’ve prepared.
Bring an iPad (or similar), fully loaded with their favourite movies and shows. You have a few ways to do this:
CBeebies iPlayer is free and all of the shows are super child-friendly. Ahead of your flight, download lots and lots of their favourite programmes. This means they will be able to watch them without using an internet connection.
Most of the downloads last 30 days, so do it a couple of days before your family trip. Nova recommends Andy’s Safari, 64 Zoo Lane and Go Jetters.
Tip: Don’t forget to bring some toddler-friendly, noise-limiting headphones.
Have access to hundreds of Disney movies, shorts and programmes with the DisneyLife app. You can download whichever ones you like, meaning toddlers can happily watch them up in the air.
This is a paid subscription at £4.99 per month (though you can get a free 7-day trial and cancel at any time). One subscriptions gives you access to the service on up to 10 devices.
If you have a Netflix account you can download kid’s shows to a device to watch later. A Netflix account costs £5.99 per month for the basic package (though you can get a 30-day free trial).
Tip: Download shows on to multiple devices if you can. This means if you’re super unlucky and forget one or it breaks you won’t be caught out.
Recommended Reading: Flying With A Baby and a Toddler
Ah the elusive nap! If only it was easy to get a toddler to nap. There are things you can do to give yourself the best chance of a toddler sleeping on a plane. If you can splurge to book the next class go for it. Having a seat that can turn into a bed is one of the easiest ways.
Travelling with Air New Zealand? Book a Sky Couch, which is basically a way of upgrading your economy seat into a bed without paying a business or first class ticket.
If neither of those are an option, make sure you have a warm blanket or a hoody that you can use and warm socks. You can get travel pillows, but I always find toddlers prefer to snuggle up to mum or dad.
You could consider a toddler bed box, which is basically a toddler suitcase that opens to fill the gap between the seat pad and seat in front to form a toddler bed. Some airlines don’t allow them so check ahead before you bring one.
Do you have any other airplane activities for kids to add to this list?
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